The UK celebrated Mother’s Day earlier this year, so you might be confused to see people on social media paying tribute to their mums today.
There’s no need to panic, though, or rush to the shops to buy some flowers: the dates are different around the world.
Indeed, it’s far more common to mark Mother’s Day today than to follow the British system – here’s everything you need to know.
When is Mother’s Day 2022 around the world?
Mother’s Day 2022 fell on 27 March in the UK, with the date set by the celebration’s Christian foundations as Mothering Sunday.
It always takes place on the fourth Sunday in the festival of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday.
Mother’s Day is now observed around the world, with the majority of countries taking their lead from the US practice of celebrating it on the second Sunday of May.
In 2022, this falls on 8 May, with almost 100 countries – including much of Europe, Africa and South America – following the American system.
Far fewer commemorate the fourth Sunday of Lent, although Nigeria joins the UK and Ireland in marking Mothering Sunday.
Other countries, including Russia, Vietnam and Afghanistan, commemorate mothers on International Women’s Day: 8 March.
Bolivia marks Mother’s Day on 27 May, the date of the Battle of La Coronilla, when women fighting for the country’s independence were slaughtered by the Spanish army in 1812.
Elsewhere, France – and many of its former colonies – celebrate mothers on the last Sunday of May, while Argentina marks “Dia de la Madre” on the third Sunday of October.
What are the origins of Mother’s Day in the UK?
The origins lie of Mothering Sunday lie in the Middle Ages, when children who had left their families to work in domestic service were allowed to go to their home – or “mother” – church.
So initially, the “mothering” aspect of the occasion had no connection to the way mothers are celebrated today.
However, the journey home inevitably became an occasion for families to reunite, with the custom developing for children to pick flowers en-route to give as a gift to their mothers.
The date took on a further celebratory air because it was traditionally an occasion for the fasting rules of Lent to be relaxed, allowing revellers a long-awaited feast.
Consequently, it also became known as Refreshment Sunday, Simnel Sunday (after the simnel cakes traditionally baked in celebration) and, most evocatively of all (and possibly only in Surrey): Pudding Pie Sunday.
How did Mothering Sunday become Mother’s Day?
Today, even in the UK most people know the occasion as “Mother’s Day” rather than “Mothering Sunday”, which owes much to the American festival later in the year.
It was created in 1907 by Anna Jarvis, who held a memorial for her mother Ann Jarvis, a peace activist who treated wounded soldiers in the American Civil War.
Her daughter campaigned for a day to honor the role played by mothers following Ann’s death, and the idea gained such traction that by 1911 all US states observed the holiday.
In 1914, it had become so ubiquitous that President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country”.
Mother’s Day rapidly became a major commercial opportunity, with Hallmark leading the way in manufacturing cards by the early 1920s.
Jarvis deeply resents the materialistic side of the holiday that she had created. The commodification of sentimental symbols like the white carnation led her to withering criticism and even to being arrested for protesting against organizations selling Mother’s Day merchandise.
While Mothering Sunday is technically a different celebration to Mother’s Day, the success of the US holiday led to a resurgence in the traditional observance after interest had waned in the early 20th century.
By the 1950s, the practices of the Christian festival had broadly merged with the commercial aspects of Mother’s Day, with the moniker gradually overtaking Mothering Sunday and the celebration becoming increasingly secular.